Building single-package documentation locally

While developing a package and its documentation, you’ll probably want to preview what the documentation looks like when built. The quickest way to do this is with a single-package documentation build.

Keep in mind that a single-package documentation build may have many broken links because package documentation is meant to be built in the context of the package stack. To do a full-stack documentation build, see either:

Nevertheless, a single-package build is useful for checking formatting and proof-reading your work. This page describes how to run a single-package documentation build, using pipe_base as the example.


Before starting this tutorial, you’ll need a working lsst_distrib installation. This installation should already be set up with a command like setup lsst_distrib.

This installation needs to be a recent daily or weekly build since you’ll be compiling the pipe_base repository from its master branch. Working from the tip of the master branch is the norm for LSST software development.

Install Documenteer, the documentation tooling

Documenteer provides tooling to build Since it’s a PyPI-distributed Python package, you need to install it separately from the EUPS Stack. The best way to do this is in a Python virtual environment that’s layered on top of the EUPS Stack’s site-packages. This way it’s easy to delete Documenteer and its dependencies without affecting the Python packages that come with the EUPS Stack.

In a base working directory — not inside a repository directory — create the virtual environment and pip-install Documenteer through the requirements.txt file for pipelines_lsst_io:

python -m venv --system-site-packages --without-pip pyvenv
source pyvenv/bin/activate
curl | python
curl -O
pyvenv/bin/pip install -r requirements.txt


FIXME update branch after tickets/DM-11216 is done.


By using the requirements.txt file in the pipelines_lsst_io repository, you can ensure you’re using the same version of Documenteer and its dependencies as in the CI builds of


When you open a new terminal session, you can reactivate the Python virtual environment in the pyvenv directory by running:

source pyvenv/bin/activate

Do this after setting up the EUPS Stack.

Downloading and setting up a package

You need to clone and build the package locally. In this example, you’ll be cloning and building pipe_base:

git clone
cd pipe_base
setup -k -r .


If you’re actively developing a package, it’s likely that you’ve already cloned and built that package.

Building the package’s documentation

You can build the package’s documentation by running:

package-docs build

The built HTML is located, relative to the pipe_base directory, at doc/_build/html.


The page at doc/_build/html/index.html is the homepage for single-package builds. It never appears in the site build but does link to all the package and module documentation directories listed in the package’s doc/manifest.yaml file.

See Documenteer’s documentation for more information about the package-docs command.

Deleting built documentation

Since Sphinx only builds files that have changed, and may not notice updated docstrings, you may need to delete the built documentation to force a clean rebuild. You can delete this built documentation by running:

package-docs clean

Deactivating the virtual environment and cleaning up Documenteer

When you’re done, you can always deactivate the pyvenv virtual environment and even delete it.

To deactivate the virtual environment, run:


To fully delete the pyvenv virtual environment, delete it:

rm -r pyvenv

Further reading


FIXME update links after tickets/DM-14852 is done.